Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal feels Wayne Rooney’s excellent record in derbies against Manchester City is because great players relish the opportunity to play in such big matches.
The United and England captain has scored 11 goals in Manchester derbies in all competitions – more than any other player in the fixture’s history.
Van Gaal hopes to see Rooney deliver in the latest clash against Premier League leaders City at Old Trafford on Sunday, the day after his 30th birthday.
The Dutchman also said it is in the player’s hands how long he can remain at the highest level having already spent 14 years in first-team football ahead of his milestone this weekend.
“He will love this kind of match,” Van Gaal said of Rooney at his pre-match media conference.
“I think all the great players love such a challenge, not only Wayne. It is the same for the other big players we have and that is also the case for the big players of Manchester City.
“It [how long he plays for] is dependent on the player. You cannot pre-judge that. It is dependent how he lives, how strong he is, how ambitious – it is dependent on a lot of factors. We have to wait and see.”
Van Gaal says he has already been experiencing how important the Manchester derby is for supporters of his own team and their opponents.
He added: “For the fans, it is very emotional. I live in a little village and there it is the talk of the town. In Manchester it is even more so, but I have to work rationally and not emotionally.
“It is not only a derby, but a match that can see who can be ready to go top of the table. Last year we had a very good derby, of course, a 4-2 win, and that is very important for the fans.”
The former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss also revealed how he would celebrate victory over City if his side can produce three points.
“I hope we can do that again but it is always difficult,” Van Gaal said to MUTV. “If we win I shall take a very big glass of wine and toast our victory.”